Purging Akwa Ibom of last vestiges of kidnappers

Kidnappers Den

When in April this year, the site Manager of Zenith Construction Company, a foreign national, Gassan Naser, was kidnapped in Mbiaya, in Uruan Local Council of Akwa Ibom State, and a police sergeant attached to him, Mohammed Sarba shot dead in the process, the news jolted many across the state, including the state government.

This was so because since the government granted amnesty to kidnappers that once terrorised parts of the state, especially Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun council in late 2018, and with the avowed determination of the State Police Command to rid the state of violent crimes in conjunction with other security agencies, kidnapping was considered history.

However, what looked like a setback was recently addressed when a team from the Command killed three of the suspected kidnappers that snatched Naser in Ekpri Nsukara, a small community in Uyo Local Council, which borders Uruan.

Addressing a press conference in Uyo, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Odiko MacDon, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), said the three suspects were gunned down when they attempted to escape during the rescue operation.

The police spokesperson added that the hoodlums were responsible for some high-profile kidnappings/murders in the state over the years, including the kidnapping of the former director general of the NYSC, Gen. Edet Akpan (rtd); the killing of Edidem Robert James Obot, the late paramount ruler of Nsit Ubium and the killing of Dr. Udosen of St. Luke’s Hospital, Anua.

He added that investigation by the command revealed that the suspected kidnappers were building a house in a forest at Ekpri Nsukara Community, where they planned to warehouse their victims while negotiating for ransom.

“The Command received approval from the state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel to demolish the building because investigations by the command revealed that the gang was building the house so as to keep their victims while negotiating for ransom,” McDon said, adding that, “it became expedient to pull down such a structure. With the approval of the state governor, and working with other security agencies, we moved into action and demolished the structure.

“By the grace of God, the state is calm and peaceful. So, the peace-loving people of the state can go on with their lawful activities and sleep with their eyes closed.”

MacDon who said the killed kidnapping suspects were also involved in a lot of robberies around Uyo and Calabar, the Cross River State capital, thanked the Akwa Ibom State government for its immense support to the Command, as well as other security agencies in the state for the synergy formed and the people of the state for their continued partnership.

Explaining how it all happened, Naser said: “I was kidnapped at Mbiaya, Uruan on April 30, and a security officer with me was shot death before they carried me away in a Sports Utility Vehicle. As we were working at our site on that morning, one car stopped around our vehicle and three men came down with guns. They killed our escort outright and then dragged me into their own car and covered my face.

“I was taken to a bush. And since that day I suffered in the bush until early morning of today (Friday May 17) when the police team came and rescued me from them. So, I want to thank the Police in Akwa Ibom State, the Nigerian Police generally, the state governor and Akwa Ibom people that have been praying for my safe release,” he said.

While in captivity, the construction worker said he was only fed with banana and bread by his abductors.

According to a community leader in Ekpri Nsukara, Otuekong Emem Dennis, when the village council suspected that the deceased suspects could be into some questionable activities, they were summoned to the village council sometime in 2017 in order to administer traditional oath (mbiam) on them, but they escaped from the village before the date fixed for the exercise.

“Their disappearance lent credence to speculations that they were truly responsible for criminal activities that had become rampant in the area, including snatching of phones, robbery and the escalation of other crimes in the village,” he said.

Dennis further told The Guardian that the house situated near a river bank in a village known as Ikot Anyan was destroyed by the police, adding that the people of the village were ready at any time to volunteer information to the security agencies so that the village could remain in peace.

“Those hoodlums that kidnapped the white man had been in the business for a long time, since 2010 or even earlier. They earlier killed one Dr. Akpan Ekpo Udo from Mkpat Enin Local Council. They were later arrested and charged to court and the case dragged on for a long time. But around October 2017, they were discharged after which they came back to the village.

“As a community leader, I called them and advised them that they should desist from heinous crimes so as not to drag the village name in the mud, but before the date of the next scheduled meeting, they had disappeared and were nowhere to be found.

“After sometime, we started hearing of increased criminal activities not too far from here. So, I as the youth leader of the area wrote a petition to the police, where I disclosed their identities, in collaboration with the village council. So, as God would have it, the kidnapping of the white man ended up confirming that they were the same set of boys that have been causing problems in the area,” he said.

He, therefore, called on the youths in the area to desist from all forms of criminality or actions that could give “Ekpri Nsukara a bad name. Rather, they should all get involved in ventures that would be beneficial to them now and in the future.

He thanked the state government, the Nigeria Police and other security agencies for their contributions to the successful operation to rid the state of criminal elements.

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